Where a child is born but no details of the father are known, should a record be created for that person and no details recorded or should no record be created?

The part hinting at this in How should I model family with unknown relationships? does not really answer my query.

  • 2
    I would say that this is very much a matter of personal choice. Just be consistent in the approach that you take. Sep 3, 2019 at 11:34

2 Answers 2


Ideally, there should be a record created for the father. Everyone has/had one, even if the details are unknown. Having a record for them allows you (or someone else) to add sketchy details if and when they surface. This could be anything from full biographical details, to a simple birth date, to a vague mention in some document. Many years down the line, another researcher may be able to make a good case for the father's identify based on the accumulated sketchy details.

There are a couple of caveats, though. The GEDCOM representation of family trees allows either parent, or both, to be absent in the data. This can cause problems in some software. Also, if the name of a person is unknown then you should resist inserting a pseudo-name, such as "Unknown", "None", "LNU" (last name unknown), etc. Products should have a special way of indicating an unknown name (incl. leaving it blank) but some others will force you to provide something in the name field. Tamura Jones has a very good article on the woes of adding pseudo-names into a real-name field.

  • Is this the article you're referring to? tamurajones.net/FNULNUMNUUNK.xhtml If so, feel free to add a link to it in your answer
    – aem
    Sep 4, 2019 at 1:26
  • I think that is it. Thanks for finding it. I did search yesterday but I had to leave in a hurry. I think Tamura may have produced more than one article on this subject (e.g. tamurajones.net/TheLnuFamilyMystery.xhtml) but the one you cited is enough.
    – ACProctor
    Sep 4, 2019 at 10:15

I have created no-name records because they are a natural home for research notes detailing what searches I have done looking for him. Aside from that, there isn't really any reason that I can see to create an empty record.

  • 3
    This is what I have done as well; also, creating an empty record makes it clearer that the child has not been mis-attributed by accident.
    – user6485
    Sep 3, 2019 at 17:05
  • Good point @ColeValleyGirl - Yes it's meant to be like this, not Oops - did I forget to link him up?
    – AdrianB38
    Sep 3, 2019 at 17:23

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